Europe’s rivers are disrupted by more than one million artificial barriers, including small dams, weirs and fords (see, for example, B. Belleti et al. Nature 588, 436–441; 2020). There is strong scientific evidence that such obstructions can harm both hydrological and ecological systems, yet the French parliament has voted to leave them in place (see go.nature.com/3ck9mxq).
By limiting the transfer of sediments and movement of organisms, these small barriers create a succession of reaches of warming, stagnant water that threatens freshwater biodiversity (M. R. Fuller et al. Ann. NY Acad. Sci. 1335, 31–51; 2015). Dismantling such small barriers is the most effective way to restore river connectivity and is now a worldwide objective (J. E. O’Connor et al. Science 348, 496–497; 2015).
The French parliament’s decision flies in the face of the EU Biodiversity Strategy. It also has no economic justification. Most small barriers cannot generate hydroelectricity and those that can contribute less than 1% to France’s electricity (see go.nature.com/2rphjch).
In our view, the fate of each barrier should be decided by balancing its ecological benefits and socioeconomic costs.
Nature 594, 26 (2021)
The authors declare no competing interests.